LAHORE - THE federal government has launched the National Emergency Action Plan aiming at eradicating polio from the country by the end of this year.
This was disclosed during a seminar on “Polio eradication – Polio free Pakistan” organised by the Mir Khalilur Rahman Memorial Society (Jang Group of Newspapers) in collaboration with the Pakistan Paediatric Association (PPA) here at a local hotel on Monday.
Addressing the seminar, National Polio Eradication Committee Chairman Prof Dr Tariq Iqbal Bhutta said a monitoring cell had been set up and a focal person was also appointed in the office of the prime minister which would monitor the anti-polio campaign in the country. Under the plan, he said, all the DCOs, EDOs (Health) and MNAs/MPAs had been included to make anti-polio campaign a success. He said polio was a debilitating disease which could be prevented by administration of polio drops to children under five years of age. He said international organizations were investing a lot for polio eradication and providing anti-polio vaccines for eradicating the disease from the country. However, he said, the polio could not be eradicated due to security problems, adding that polio cases had surfaced in Fata and three districts of Balochistan, namely Quetta, Pasheen and Qila Abdullah. Besides, he said, that the mass displacement of people due to floods during the last two years had also transferred polio virus to different places of the country. He said the situation was better in Punjab although eight polio cases were reported from South Punjab last year.
Dr Altaf Bosan said that there were serious misunderstandings in the society regarding polio vaccination, including religious and social taboos, vaccine’s side effects. He rejected these misunderstandings by saying that there were no side effects of polio vaccine. “No child is ever harmed by the vaccine any where in the world including Europe and India,” he said, adding that the media must play its role in this regard. He also emphasized the role of parents and urged them to administer polio drops to their children timely every time during the National Immunization Days (NIDs) and Sub-National Immunization Days (SNIDs). Besides, he said, the polio vaccine was easily available at public sector hospitals and rural health centres. He said that polio vaccine was safe as it duly-certified by UNICEF and WHO.
PPA central president Dr Ameer Muhammad Khan Jugezai said the Pakistan Paediatric Association had joined hands with the government and fully supporting vaccination campaign against polio. While emphasizing upon the role of parents and the society, he said administration of polio drops to children saved them from lifetime disability while the disabled became a burden on the family in particular and society at large. He criticized the role of certain sections of the media which were doing a disservice to the nation by holding debate on highly sensitive and technical issue by involving politicians and young doctors, adding that it led to people avoiding immunization against polio and might lead to increase in number of polio cases. He said that polio vaccine, even if expired neither caused polio nor led to death of the child.
PPA Punjab chapter president Dr Waqar Hussain said polio virus was of three types, which entered the body through mouth, and therefore had a lot to do with sanitation condition. In certain conditions, he said, the immunity could not be developed against the polio virus which then mostly attacked the legs of its victim crippling him/her for life and made it incurable. “If it attacks upper part of the body, it affected the breathing system and may cause death of the patient,” he added.
Dr Zareen said that polio always attacked children therefore it was paramount to administer polio drops to the children soon after birth to completion of the vaccination course. If any child is paralyzed, she said, it should immediately be reported so that further transmission could be stopped. She said that polio disease had been eliminated in the world except in Afghanistan, Nigeria and Pakistan.
Prof Dr Iftikhar stressed to push anti-polio campaign on war-footing in Pakistan, saying that the polio was being administered to 60 percent children soon after birth and 70 percent during immunization campaign against international standard of 90 percent soon after birth and 95 percent during the immunization campaigns.
Children’s Hospital, Lahore, Dean Prof Dr Tahir Masood said that just four cases of polio had been reported in Afghanistan against report of 12 cases in Pakistan so far which was alarming and demanded action against the disease on war footing basis involving all the sections, including government, society, Ulema, parents and teachers by making anti-polio campaigns a success.
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